Carol O’Donnel

Executive Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center, Smithsonian Institution

University of Pittsburgh, B.S. in Science Education
Mississippi State University, M.S. in Geosciences
The George Washington University, Ph.D., Curriculum & Instruction, Science Education

Dr. Carol O’Donnell is a Senior Executive at the Smithsonian Institution and Director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center. Carol serves as an advisor on several boards and committees: the Subcommittee on Federal Coordination in STEM Education of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy; the Science Education Programme Global Council of the InterAcademy Partnership, the global network of science academies; the International Committee of the Foundation La main à la pâte in France; the UN Broadband Commission on School Connectivity; and the Program Committee of the International Dialogue on STEM Education in Berlin. In this role, Carol co-authored the position paper on STEM Education for Sustainable Development. Prior to Smithsonian, Carol was a leader at the US Department of Education as both a research and policy analyst; she has expertise in education policy, professional development, cognition and student learning, education research, and curriculum development. Carol has spoken extensively about Women in STEM, science education standards, diversifying the STEM teaching workforce, educating youth on the SDGs, and Social and Emotional Learning. Carol earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Pittsburgh, Master of Science in Geosciences from MSU, and doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from George Washington University (GWU). A former K-12 teacher, Dr. O’Donnell is still in the classroom today, serving on the part-time faculty of the Physics Department at GWU


What are you most proud of in your work or life?

Accomplishing my life’s work as a STEM educator and overcoming economic disadvantages; first (and only) in my family of 7 to go to college. Loving what I do every day and feeling proud of the ability to give back.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Enjoy nature and the outdoors (bike riding, walking in the woods) and being with my children and grandchildren.

Do you have a personal motto or other words to live by?

Don’t command the attention of others; earn their respect.

Favorite snack food?

Movie Popcorn

Newsletter Sign Up


For monthly updates about NSTMF’s work, events, and programs.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.